I was born on a horse ranch, back when horses were in much greater demand than now. Automobiles were on the scene, but were not expected to be around too long. The average horse ranch usually had several types of horses to choose from. The best price came for Army mounts. These had to have certain specific qualities: they had to be four years old, free of blemishes, solid color, lady-broke and of a certain height, but the best of these might bring more money from an officer buying it for his private mount. The next in value were stage coach horses. They were somewhat heavier than the riding ones, but with good action, or movement. Farm teams were next in value. These could be all sorts of different kinds, depending on the preference of the farmer. Ranch, or cow horses, could be anything that had a leg on each corner. A cowboy could work stock on anything that he could saddle, and he didn't care a whole lot what it was. It was a long time yet until the quarter horse came along, a horse that any cowboy would be proud to ride. ...
Time passed, things changed. Internal combustion took the place of horses, and the demand for them almost disappeared, but cattle ranches still depended on the horse to get their job done. Some ranches were in such rough country that at times even a man on horseback could not find all the stock. There are ranches today that use airplanes and walkie-talkies to help gather stock. Eventually the horse ranch sold to a cow outfit, and Dad lost his job and began doing anything that paid wages. We got by.
I was about five years old when my mother died of something or another; we never knew what it was. Three or four years later, Dad married again. I was eight or nine. My dad’s new wife never took much of a liking to me, but that made us even because I didn't like her worth a flip either. ...
I have been told that their marriage started off rather shaky. He was still working at the old place with cattle. He met Lillie at some doings in town, and chased after her like a young rooster. They got married, but there was no place on the ranch for them to live, so he stayed in the bunkhouse and she stayed in town. This was about as nice as a rock in your boot. In short order, he quit the ranch and went to town to find a job there. He found a few short time things, but nothing permanent until an oil well job came up. ...
I was in the last grade of school when Dad got killed on the job. ... Here I was, still in school with $22,500 in the bank. Fortunately, all payments were made in another town, so my wealth was not known to those who knew me. ...
Then I started fooling with green colts, those that had only been broken to lead, and discovered that I had the ability, or knack, to gentle a colt and put a decent rein on him in a relatively short time. I began to get a rep as a better than average hand with a young horse, and I was told by several that there is often a form of communication between horse and rider that allows them to work together. There may be something to this notion. The place that I had inherited from Dad, and he from his second wife, made a nice place to do my horse training. I rented some land that joined me, and bought some feed, so that I could keep several colts at a time. I was making good money and having a good time besides. I told those that had colts for me to break that they must be brought to me with enough feed to for them. It was no problem for me to teach them a few things.
It got to the point that if I did not think that a colt would break out to something that I could be proud of, I turned him down. There were several boys around that could break a horse to ride, if that is all that was required. About the time that I got in high gear as a horse trainer, the people that owned the land I had rented got an offer they could not turn down, and sold it out from under me. The word got around that unless I found some land, I might have to stop breaking horses for anybody.
A lawyer that I barely knew hit me up one day, when I was nursing a cup of coffee at Jake's. He had a tale to tell that sounded promising. A man who had had three sections of land, about 1920 acres, a few miles out of town had passed on and left his property to his two daughters. One was married to an army officer and was stationed somewhere in the East, and the other was in college somewhere. The improvements were nothing to brag about, but would do and the lawyer thought that I could lease it for a reasonable amount. I told him that I would take a look and let him know. I had three good horses that I had picked up one way or another, so I rode one of them out see to the place. It had not been stocked for several years and the grass was good. The pens needed a lot of work, but that was in their favor. I could build them back like I wanted them. I went back to the lawyer prepared to put up a fight to get the place on my terms and almost fainted when his first price was about half of what I had decided to give. But I could only get a three year lease, with option to renew or buy.
I made a deal with a fellow, who I had seen in Jake's from time to time, for two wagon loads of bundled feed to be delivered and stacked. Another fellow that I knew slightly sold me some bundled oats at a very reasonable price. Things were going my way.
I have just mentioned Jake's, so let me explain. Jake's is a small cafe, just off of Main Street, that caters to working people, but will allow others to come in and have a meal. It is the place to find out what, if anything, is going on in the way of jobs or anything that might interest a working man. The food is good and the coffee is the best. A man can nurse a cup until it freezes over without being chased out. There is a corner that is always reserved for those who are only killing time for one reason or another. ...
One day a local rancher by the name of Cap Brady hit me up to break some three year old colts, whenever I could get to them. I asked “How many?” He said "Oh twenty-five, maybe thirty.”
I thought for a bit and said, "Bring half of ‘em as soon as possible and I'll get started on them.”
I had an arrangement with the local Livestock Auction to keep my horses at the barn where they were used on sale days to pen and work the stock on hand. It was making real using-horses out of them. I had it set up with the auction barn operators that I could take out one or more of my horses if I had a need for them. I took two of the most experienced out to the new place and began to get set for work. The first colt that I tried was a good-looking bay with a streak of white from between his ears to the tip of his nose. Naturally I called him Streak. Horses may be called by a dozen names before one comes along that fits.
This brings to mind a farm boy that named three unbroken horses Alfonso, Emperor, and Galena. When these horses were turned into the using bunch they were renamed Mush, Flapjack and Mudball. Made no difference to them.
I roped Streak around the neck and the fight was on. He dragged me for at least a half a mile. When he turned to face me, it was more with the idea of more fight than surrender. This is the way most horses are started. They are scared and the seed of fear of mankind is planted.
One of my old standbys was saddled and waiting to do his part. I got to him, wrapped the rope around the horn, and let Mr. Streak choke himself unconscious, then jumped down and put a rope halter on him, and left a drag rope tied to the halter. I took the neck rope off, and as soon as Streak got to his feet, he gave a snort, as if daring me to come near. While each of us tried to catch our breath and cool off a bit, I had a revolting thought. “I will have to go through this battle with each of the twenty-five or thirty that I have to work on. There has to be an easier way!” ...